When I was a child, you had store-bought options. You could be a Power Ranger or Thomas the Tank Engine, something licensed, but a lot of the costumes weren’t. There was the any kind of generic career choice – a doctor, a fireman, a racecar driver. You could be a food or a person in history or of course, the generalized Universal horror monsters. Oh, lots of pirates and ninjas. There were a lot of possibilities not exclusively tied to a franchise, though those were there too.
Personally, my childhood was spent as a Ninja Turtle for about five years running; every year the costume improved more and more, culminating with a pair of wooden swords my father built me and strapped to my back with a belt he cut up and manipulated. Ideal, right there.
These days, it baffles me how many options kids have – and adults, too! You don’t just get to decide to be Batman, you then get to break down which Batsuit you’re wearing – is it Christian Bale’s from Batman Begins, or the one from Dark Knight Rises? Are you going old-school with Adam West, or looking for that flash of yellow from Keaton’s Batman? OPTIONS.
First of all, I think it’s great. There’s so many options for each character. Look at this quick rundown of the choices for Riddler costumes on Spirit.com alone!
Halloween-wise, it’s awesome to see variety like that, though it does turn the “fireman” kid into something of a rarity. The kids I make costumes for all want a character – Captain America, Ash Ketchum, Dorothy. I’ve yet to be commissioned to make Abraham Lincoln or a hot dog – though I guess there’s always next year.
In addition, I think it also normalizes cosplay. People wear their Halloween costumes to conventions, or buy them just for conventions, which is totally legit. I especially love to see the little kids barely able to walk yet somehow managing to toddle upright while wearing a muscled Flash suit; you can never see their neck or little hands…
Second of all, I think that because of the influx in comic book movies and the whole widening of nerd culture, we’re seeing a ton more superhero costumes and other comic-related characters. The world at large didn’t know who the heck Iron Man was until Robert Downey Jr made him into something of an icon all over again, and now there are dozens of costume options around the comic character, including side characters.
I was Batman when I was a child because he was my favorite; I think there was a Batgirl option, though I wasn’t into it. There was only one Batman costume though, and a Superman, plus a Wonder Woman. That was really the height of the costume options for me at Spirit; I think if I’d asked the guy behind the desk for a Captain America costume, he would have been like “Captain who?”
At the Halloween store, there’s now a whole section for superheroes. Kids can be characters that don’t even have movies yet – like the Flash. There’s a costume for like a dozen different Green Lanterns. There are Iron Mans in varying degrees of quality, for the thrifty costumer up to the OCD perfectionist.
I just did a quick google search and man, there are some really specific costumes out there, on “mainstream” Halloween shopping sites. Here’s some highlights, the names are perhaps my favorite:
This “Adult Robin” costume is on sale for $350.
This “Zombie the Flash” costume is on sale for $46 under the category “Blackest Night Green Lantern Costumes” which on a whole, is a sentence I never thought I’d write.
“Sassy Thor” at $60. I have no words. None.
I suppose it goes without saying that mass media influences the Halloween costume trends, but it’s still something of a marvel to me to see so many kids at our door wearing superhero costumes, and getting excited about ours.
In addition to normalizing, I think it’s also made cosplay accessible. People wear superhero costumes for Halloween and get excited about it, and then at conventions see cosplayers doing the same thing and understand that feeling. Of course, I don’t think we’ll ever completely move past the “Don’t you know it’s not Halloween?” comments, but hey. It’s a great start.